701 5th Avenue South, Naples, FL
IF YOU GO
Where Sugden Community Theatre, 701 5th Ave. South, Naples
Tickets naplesplayers.org, or (239) 263-7990.
The show will be performed Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $35 for adults and $10 for children 18 and under, and can be purchased at the box office, by calling (239) 263-7990 with credit card information, or by visiting naplesplayers.org. Sugden Community Theatre is located at 701 5th Avenue South on the Plaza in downtown Naples.
MARCO ISLAND — From the barricades of 19th century Paris to the quiet streets of Marco, Les Miserables has a local connection.
Like revolutionaries assailing the barricades, the story of love and obsession set in a bygone era of France has taken the world of theater by storm, becoming one of the most successful Broadway shows of all time. And the iconic image of Les Miz, reproduced on thousands of posters, T-shirts and reviews, is the face of the young Cosette.
For many of the performances at the Naples Players’ production of Les Miz, currently in a month-long run at the Sugden Community Theatre in Naples, the face belongs to Sophia-Belle Carrasquillo, an eight-year-old girl playing her first major theatrical role. She lives with her parents in Naples, but comes every weekend to visit her grandparents, Carol and Tony Costantino, at their waterfront home on Marco Island.
Sophia is a determined, self-possessed young lady, and when opportunity knocked, she was ready to answer the call.
“One of my teachers, Miss Jamie (JamieLynn Bucci), suggested I try out for the role,” said Sophia, relaxing poolside at the Costantino residence. The drama teacher saw her potential and told her, Sophia said, “If you don’t sign up for the next course, I’m going to hunt you down.”
No hunting was necessary; Sophia had been bitten by the theater bug early, started dancing at age two, appeared in “The Nutcracker,” and performed most recently in the KidzAct production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” also at Sugden.
“My voice coach is also in the show (Les Miz), and she teaches at my school,” the Village School in Naples. Sophia’s role includes the wistful, and show-stopping, musical number “Castle in the Clouds,” and much of her onstage time shows her withdrawn and sad, and she bears a striking resemblance to the poster illustration of Cosette, but in person, she tends to wear a beaming smile.
“I really love singing and dancing. I love being onstage,” said Sophia. She got a standing ovation at her first performance, and was mobbed outside the theater afterward. “It was great. People were clapping, and I was blinded by the cameras.”
Running until nearly 11 p.m., the show makes for a late night for an eight-year-old, so the Naples Players have three young actresses sharing the role of Cosette as a little girl. Sitting with other potential Cosettes, Sophia confessed to feeling butterflies before her audition, but not during her actual tryout.
“I was nervous when I was waiting, then when I was next up, I was very nervous. But when I sang, I wasn’t nervous at all.” With friendly faces in the cast, she is having a great time playing Cosette, as well as the young Eponine, another role she takes on. Sophia said her interaction with Dave Gipson, playing Jean Valjean, is particularly rewarding.
“When he puts a coat on me, gives me a doll, and picks me up onstage, I love that,” she said. Sophia-Belle’s parents Joanna and Frank Carrasquillo said that Sophia has always been grown-up for her age.
“We’ve never really talked to her like a baby, so she never really acted like one,” said Frank, who is general sales manager for Naples Mercedes-Benz. Sophia has no brothers or sisters, but the family she has is close-knit. When she was interviewed on July 4th on Marco, Sophia was the youngest of four generations of family in attendance, with her great-grandmother Josephine Gelo, a spry and active 90, cheering her on along with the others.
In addition to acting and voice lessons, Sophia is learning to play the violin, as well as basketball, and is an avid reader.
“I really love reading chapter books,” she said. “On my school tests, I did really well.” She placed in the 94th percentile in standardized tests, said her parents. Sophia has set her sights on the aspiration of being one of the Disney Kids on television.
Coming from the New York City area, “we know theater,” said her mom. The Naples Players version of “Les Miserables” is “surprisingly, amazingly professional. They were all so good you can tell how much they care” about the show.
“Everybody says ‘Les Miz’ is the role of a lifetime, said Joanna Carrasquillo. “It’s fun to watch your daughter in it.”
Sophia is already going places in the theater. Grandpa Tony Costantino has promised her a trip to the Big Apple and the Great White Way to see the Broadway version of her show.